Take a time-out to regroup
Sept. 19, 2011
by Ivan Raconteur

We all have them.

Days, that is, when we can’t help but feel that they have been coming over the plate a bit too fast for us. Days when it seems like the hand of fate has been lobbing challenges and obstacles at us at such a brisk pace that we will never see daylight.

Fortunately, not every day is like that.

Most of us enjoy a challenge.

There is a kind of satisfaction that comes from having taken on a difficult situation and wrestled it into submission.

We might moan about it at the time, but the truth is, we need a certain amount of stress in our lives to keep things interesting.

We humans are problem-solvers. It’s what we do.

At some level, that is the motivation behind sports and many of the contests that we enjoy, be they physical or mental in nature.

We can only endure peace and quiet for so long, and after that point, we begin to invent artificial challenges for ourselves.

Perhaps we solve puzzles or play games that involve competition. This competition can be against others, or against a particular score or outcome.

Some people, having solved all of their own immediate problems, will seek out others and help solve their problems, simply for the challenge and satisfaction it brings.

They might help their neighbor fix his car, or help a friend with a home improvement project. Obviously, there may be more than one motivation behind helping others, but some people are never happy unless they are doing something, and the more difficult it is, the better they like it.

Even when they are on vacation, they seek out little projects to keep them busy.

But what do we do when the pace of life goes from pleasantly productive to insanely intense?

These are the times when we start out busy, and new problems seem to multiply like rabbits in the springtime until we are tempted to cry uncle, throw in the towel, and collapse in a heap of unfinished business.

There are days when keeping up with our in-box is like digging a hole on the beach when the tide is coming in. As fast as we dig it out, it fills back in again.

This is, of course, nothing new. Our ancestors spent most of their time and energy just trying to keep themselves warm and fed.

Perhaps what has changed is the multitude of ways we have created to keep ourselves artificially busy.

This is a fairly recent phenomenon. My parents, for example, never owned a computer or a cell phone, but managed to lead satisfying and productive lives just the same. My nephews, on the other hand, have never known a world without these devices.

What technology has done, while making our lives easier in some ways, has, in other ways, increased our workload.

Many people of my parents’ generation went through their entire careers separating their work lives and their personal lives. They worked hard during business hours, and left their jobs behind them at quitting time.

Today, however, technology has blurred or blown away those boundaries. People are on-call 24/7, and might receive work-related calls, texts, or e-mails at any time of the day or night.

Even communication that is not work-related can be intrusive, and there is no escape.

Smart phones and other mobile devices have made it practically impossible to hide. We are accessible at any time and any place.

There is also a growing demand for immediacy. We need – or rather, we think we need – everything right now. Even answers to non-time-sensitive questions take on a sense of urgency.

It wasn’t all that long ago when, if we were away from our phones, we were out of reach, and perhaps that is the answer.

If we are feeling over-worked, overwhelmed, and generally like we are losing control, maybe we just need to disconnect for awhile.

We might feel like we need a vacation (even if we just returned from a vacation). It is possible, however, that instead of getting away, we just need to get grounded.

We need to remember that this is within our power.

That sounds simple, but we seem to forget sometimes that we are in control.

We can start by stopping and taking a few deep breaths. Then, we can turn off our phones, log off our computers, unplug our televisions, and just decompress for an hour.

For some of us, that might mean reading a book or taking a walk. It might mean taking some time to enjoy a favorite activity, or it might mean doing nothing at all for awhile.

We spend so much of our lives being bombarded by demands and stimulation from every direction that going off the grid and just staring into space for a few minutes might be just what we need to help us regain control of our situations.

It means having the courage to step off the merry-go-round of life for a minute to give ourselves a chance to recharge.

Then, when we have caught our breath and regained our focus, we can jump back into the fray and rejoin the race. When I do this, I like to utter a battle cry like a pirate king sailing into the teeth of a hurricane, and then hang on to enjoy the wild ride.

It is worth reminding ourselves every day that we are living the dream, and the dream is whatever we make it.

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